Chuck Benemerito ('97)

Chuck Benemerito (‘97):  I can’t believe it has been ten years since I participated in the Holocaust Remembrance Project! I still hold many fond memories of the people I met and the places I visited as a result of writing my essay, “It Has to be Carefully Taught”, back in 1997. Being a Filipino American attending a Catholic high school, I knew little about the Holocaust until taking a Christian Morality class in high school taught by one of the project’s major early contributors, Mrs. Gloria Chandler. From watching Schindler’s List to having intense classroom discussions to reading books upon books written by Holocaust survivors, every experience provided invaluable insight in gripping detail into this event.

There were too many experiences to mention, but perhaps the most moving was attending a talk by survivor Marion Blumenthal Lazan and witnessing a German lady stand up and apologize for not doing anything to stop the genocide during her early life in Nazi Germany. The reality of such an event was further ingrained in my mind by seeing the memories that lined the halls of the Holocaust museum in DC and talking to other project winners. We all learned amazing and horrifying and wonderful things about humanity and the will to live against all odds -- things which we should never forget.

In the years since that trip, I attended Duke University and graduated with a degree in economics. Participating in the project helped me to find a passion for writing, and I worked in DC for a year as a financial and freelance writer. While there I was able to attend the 2003 awards dinner and see firsthand how the project continues to grow. I’ve since moved to Philadelphia, where I worked as a consultant (during which I spent four months in India as part of the whole outsourcing wave) and currently work as an analyst for a small financial firm just outside of the city.

I took many lessons from the Holocaust Remembrance Project, some of which I never realized until now. In addition to helping me to care about a part of history that may not have crossed my mind and to discover a voice with which to tell my own stories, these experiences also instilled in me the a responsibility to be aware of events outside of my immediate surroundings. Additionally, I now have a broader context and an extreme gratitude for my lot in life no matter how difficult it may at times feel. I guess I was the one who was carefully taught -- about the value of life and the importance of never forgetting the lessons we’ve learned through our failures to cherish it.